Monday, December 21, 2009

CPotD #20 (How to Get the Young People Involved)

The international Corvair club, CORSA, has been struggling with decreasing membership for a number of years now. The median age of the membership keeps going up since there are very few young adults choosing a Corvair as their hobby. There’s been quite a bit of online conversation as to how we’re going to reverse this trend. How are we going to get young people interested in working on and driving an old car.

For the past seven years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work on Corvairs with three of my daughters. Each of them is still enthused about their car. Many times, however, they’ve not been so enthused about going out to the garage or driveway to work with dad. Boredom and frustration are two of our biggest enemies. Boredom when the task is menial or repetitive. Frustration when the job doesn’t go as planned and one, or both, of us gets angry. The reward of the car is not enough to inspire them to spend hours getting greasy, sweaty, cold, and sometimes bloody. The other day, however, Victoria asked me when we were going out again to work on her car. That is a triumph in getting a young person involved.

What have I been doing right so my teenager actually wants to go out and work on their cars? Five big factors come to mind.

First, I challenge them. Handing out screwdrivers and wrenches is not their idea of contributing to the project. I put the tool in their hand, give them clear instructions, and let them do the work.

Second, I try to be consistent. Life has a tendency to get in the way of our projects – other cars need work, the house needs attention, Girl Scouts schedule meetings. Regardless, we try to squeeze in at least an hour every Sunday accomplishing something on their car.

Third, I allow flexibility. If a task is not going well, move on to something else. If bolts aren’t coming loose, or worse yet breaking, it’s time to move on to something different. This means I need to be prepared with alternate tasks and the associated parts or materials.

Fourth, I try to show patience. There are times when they don’t follow directions, they don’t understand my clear instructions, or they’re not strong enough to torque that nut off. It’s not easy to get past those times without hard feelings, but I must or working together will be chore not a pleasure.

Finally, and this brings me to today’s CPotD, I try to start them off young. When I towed Betty into the driveway, I gave my camera to 11-year-old Mikhaila and asked her to take pictures. I also had her steer while I shoved Betty into the garage. Giving the young ones fun little helping tasks plants a seed of car "like" in them that I hope to cultivate into a love of their car someday.

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